KIT to use mechanical over chemical processes for battery recycling
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has developed a recycling process for batteries in which up to 70 per cent of the lithium can be recovered. And it does so without the use of corrosive chemicals, high temperatures or the need for prior sorting of the materials.
The process takes place at room temperature and uses Aluminium to serve as a reducing agent for the mechanochemical reaction, meaning a process that uses mechanical processes to bring about chemical reactions. Since aluminium is already present in the cathode, scientists say no other chemicals need to be used.
To recover the lithium, the battery waste is ground up. Due to the reaction with the aluminium, metallic composites with water-soluble lithium compounds are formed. “The lithium is then recovered by dissolving the water-soluble compounds in water and then heating them to remove the water by evaporation,” the KIT explains.
“The method is suitable for recovering lithium from cathode materials of different chemical compositions and thus for many different commercially available lithium-ion batteries,” explains Oleksandr Dolotko, lead author of the publication. “It allows for cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly recycling.” This is because the mechanochemical reaction takes place at room temperature and at normal air pressure. Moreover, according to the KIT researchers, the process is simple, which will facilitate its use on an industrial scale.
Researchers from the Institute for Applied Materials – Energy Storage Systems (IAM-ESS) at KIT, the Helmholtz Institute Ulm for Electrochemical Energy Storage (HIU) and EnBW have joined forces to develop the process.